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Underwater Photographer and DAN Member Madelein Wolfaardt

CREDITS | Text and Photos by Madelein Wolfaardt

This born and bred Jo'burger's keen interest in wildlife photography, nature conservation and marine biology motivated and inspired her to become a avid underwater photographer.  "Life tends to take you on a journey with all sorts of unexpected twists and turns, but I very happily ended up living in Gordon’s Bay, Cape Town, she said. It is here that her passion for the ocean and diving have grown and she became a competent underwater photographer with loads of experience diving all over the world.  She tells us more about her passion and journey.

How did your path to photography evolve?I
Madelein: I always loved taking pictures, since I was a child, but underwater photography is what got me into doing photography more seriously again. At school, I used to do portraits for friends, at my sister’s creche, or was roped into being the second shooter at weddings. It was a fun learning experience and I earned some pocket money. But my preferred subjects to photograph are nature and wildlife.
How did you get started in underwater photography?
After completing my Open Water scuba certification, I bought my first underwater setup from a friend who showed me the ropes. It was a Canon Powershot S95 compact camera with Ikelite housing. I quickly got the hang of it. As you may know, light and colour disappear very quickly underwater, especially on deeper dives or in lower visibility.  I decided to get a strobe to add to my underwater housing. This addition to my setup completely changed my pictures. Once I saw the wonderfully vibrant colours of the reef and marine animals, that the light of the strobe lit up, I was hooked. There was no turning back.

This compact setup was great and I did make some wonderful images with it. I soon started to feel limited by this gear and soon upgraded to an SLR underwater setup. I have been diving with a camera from my 6th or 7th dive and I can count on my one hand the number of times I have done dives without it.
What are your brand preferences for your underwater cameras and housings?
I’m not much of a gear snob, as long as it’s practical and does the job I’m happy. Camera-wise, I have always used Canon. My current setup is a bit more light-weight since we travel a lot. I have a Canon 750D in an Ikelite housing with two Sea&Sea YS-D2 strobes. Going mirrorless with my underwater setup will probably be my next step, I would love to use my Canon R6 underwater.
What would you like to achieve with your photography or would you like to specialise in a specific field such as conservation photography?
One of my goals that I would like to achieve with my photography is to show people the wonders of the ocean. Conveying my love and passion in the hope that at least some of it rubs off on others. We protect what we love, and the ocean desperately needs just that.
Conservation photography is definitely what it’s all about for me. Photography is a way to express myself artistically. Being able to share this with others is very rewarding. I count myself incredibly lucky to see and experience the wonderful things the underwater world offers us, which many people never get to see.

If we are open and aware, nature lends us glimpses of connection, moments that truly imprints on our souls. This is what I want for my photography, connecting people to the ocean and nature, igniting a spark in them.
Are you a DAN member and why is it important to you?
Yes, I have been a DAN member ever since I enrolled for my Open Water certification in 2013. When doing an adventure sport there’s always some risk involved and it’s great to have the peace of mind that we are covered, especially when travelling to remote places.

We had a family member, whose heart was set on becoming a scuba diver, but she was incorrectly diagnosed with PFO (more information on PFO & Diving:) which meant she would not be able to dive. DAN staff and doctors went out of their way to assist us in getting this sorted out. Thanks to DAN she is now becoming a PADI dive professional and will be doing her Instructors Development Course this year.

Instagram: @sealife_madeleinwolf
All images copyright Madelein Wolfaardt.

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